Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Organic Produce Contains More Antioxidants

Scientists look at a lot of data — including the famous Stanford analysis — and find an excellent reason to enjoy organic produce.

Kimi Harris   July 16, 2014

A Stanford study released in 2012 made headlines when it was announced that there wasn’t necessarily a nutritional advantage to eating organic produce over conventional produce. Many people felt that the uproar that followed in response to the study – with people saying that organic food was a “scam” or useless – was misguided. You can read my thoughts about other good reasons to choose organic here, and Starre’s similar opinions here from that time.

Now, a new study shows that organic produce just may have an across-the-board better nutritional value after all. This new analysis looked at more than just the Stanford study. The researchers found that while it was true that certain vitamins and minerals were the same in conventional and organic produce (such as vitamin C and E) that there was a significant difference in antioxidant levels.

Organic produce has between 20 and 40 percent more antioxidants than conventional produce. A co-author of the study, Charles Benbrook, notes that this is significant because one of the reasons we are encouraged to eat produce is for this antioxidant benefit. While research is still ongoing, antioxidants have been under scrutiny for a long time because of their anti-cancer and anti-aging effects.

But why is there any difference in antioxidant levels? Conventional produce is more likely to be highly fertilized, which can lead to faster-growing plants, which means bigger produce and more diluted antioxidants. Plants that are not protected by pesticides have to work harder at producing deterrents to insects, which translates into more antioxidants.

However, it should be noted that there is a wide range of practices in conventional and organic farming. Some organic farmers use a lot of organic fertilizer and organic pesticides too. Regardless, this study is intriguing and encouraging. While there are other reasons to choose organic other than simple vitamin and antioxidant levels, I’m thrilled when I get more bang for my buck with each bite I take, so I’ll gladly take that 20 to 40 percent more antioxidant increase any day.

source: www.mnn.com

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Why Going Organic Matters For Your Family

By Alan Greene, MD, FAAP Pediatrician and Author

Posted on 10/03/2012     By Alan Greene, MD, FAAP

Recent headlines blared that a new study had found that organic foods weren’t any healthier for you than conventional food. Researchers at Stanford University recently released a study that questioned the nutritional benefits of buying organic foods. The study found very little nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce and meat. But let’s a closer look behind the headlines.

Today’s children, from infancy up to age 5, in the US have lost more than 16 million IQ points from exposure to organophosphate pesticides, according to another recent analysis. They’re exposed to these pesticides almost entirely through our food.

Organic foods are grown without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, artificial hormones, or genetic engineering. They depend on cultivating healthy soil to grow healthy plants to produce healthy animals.

The study in question wasn’t new science, but a compilation and analysis of some of the existing studies comparing organic to conventional food. What did this paper find?


Findings: Conventional produce is more than five times more likely than organic to have any pesticide residues (38% of samples versus 7%).

The study didn’t go a step further and consider that when pesticides are found on conventional produce, the pesticides are often more toxic, present at higher levels, and come as mixtures of different chemicals.

The study also didn’t include the large body of literature about the toxic effects of some of these pesticides.

The authors concluded that this five-fold difference in pesticides couldn’t matter because the total amounts are so small. I strongly disagree. Think about this: Pharmaceutical drugs are powerful, refined chemicals designed to improve health. They can have desired health effects on our brain function, sexual function, and fertility at concentrations in our bodies of only parts per billion. Synthetic pesticides are also powerful, refined chemicals, but designed to destroy or inhibit life. Why couldn’t they have undesirable health effects on our brain function, sexual function, and fertility when present in our bodies at similar concentrations?


Today, almost all of us carry synthetic pesticides in our blood – pesticides that get there through our food. This is true even in babies at the moment of birth. I participated in a study with the Environmental Working Group where we analyzed umbilical cord blood – we found pesticides in every baby tested.  To be more specific, 21 different synthetic pesticides were present in babies’ blood.

One group of pesticides, the organophosphates, were produced as nerve agents during World War II. We still have much to learn about their health effects, but higher levels of exposure have been linked to lower IQ, memory problems, developmental problems, and ADHD.

The 16 million IQ points lost in young children from organophosphates carries a price tag of more than $169 billion in lost productivity when they grow up. And we take out a new debt of $28-30 billion every year – about the same amount as the total amount of money spent on organic food each year in the US.

Choosing organic food can drop a child’s organophosphate pesticide exposure almost overnight. In another study, suburban Seattle children had their urine tested multiple times for evidence of organophosphate pesticides; it was present in all samples, suggesting exposure above what the EPA set as a safe level. Then the children were switched to mostly organic food. The pesticides disappeared. They were virtually undetectable in morning and evening urine samples for five days. Then the children were switched back to their typical suburban diet and the levels found in their urine shot back up.

The EPA says, “Protecting children from the potential effects of pesticides is one of EPA’s most important responsibilities. Pesticides have widespread uses and may affect children’s health in a variety of settings. We recognize that children are at greater risk from pesticide exposure.”

Choosing organic is a choice for decreasing toxic pesticides in our air, water, and farms – as well as on our plates and in our children.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Findings: When you buy conventional food, you are three times more likely to bring multi-drug resistant bacteria into your home than when buying organic (48.4% of samples versus 15.9%).

The authors found this difference, but concluded it was unimportant because they thought bacterial resistance is fueled primarily by human antibiotic use. Resistant bacteria are emerging as a major health threat.

According to the FDA, “Today, almost all important bacterial infections in the United States and throughout the world are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. The smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling the spread of resistance.”

We know what causes resistance: When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they develop ways to survive, making them more resistant to antibiotics.

We also know that the routine use of antibiotics in our conventional livestock to fatten them up dwarfs the amount of antibiotics used to treat all human diseases. The FDA recognizes the problem and has asked for drug companies to voluntarily remove agricultural production use from their antibiotic product labels, but widespread antibiotic use continues in conventional agriculture.

The most highly resistant bacteria discovered so far were found not in hospitals or clinics, but in the soil.

Organic food, which doesn’t allow the use of antibiotics, is part of the solution to resistant bacteria – in our environment and in our own homes.


The headlines trumpeted that organic isn’t worth extra money. The study in question found a five-fold difference in pesticides and a three-fold difference in multi-drug resistant bacteria (plus significantly higher healthy omega-3 fats in organic food). It didn’t even look at differences related to the use of artificial hormones or genetic engineering – or of artificial colorings, preservatives, and sweeteners in processed foods.

Every bite of food is an investment in our bodies – or a debt of some kind that we will have to pay back. Good food – organic food – is a delicious investment.


The Simple and Proven Way to Get Pesticides Out of Your Body

Michelle Schoffro Cook    October 11, 2015

If you’re like most people you’re probably concerned about the quantity and types of toxic chemicals you’re coming into contact with regularly. And, for good reason: we’ve never in human history been bombarded with so many synthetic chemicals. The Industrial Revolution may have brought us many modern conveniences, but they have come at the price of chemical pollution. Some of the worst types of chemicals we face come in the form of pesticides. Even international authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly stated that chemicals like glyphosate found in herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup is a probable carcinogen.

While there’s no sure-fire way to eliminate all of these pesticide residues from our blood and tissues once we’ve been exposed to them, exciting new research indicates that we are not as helpless as we might think. A new study in the medical journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed that eating an organic diet helps to remove pesticides from the body. In other words, not only does eating an organic diet reduce a person’s intake of pesticides, it can help remove pesticides already inside a person’s body.

Scientists at the School of Public Health, at the University of California, Berkeley; the School of Public Health, University of Maryland; and the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, assessed the effects of an organic dietary intervention on young children in low income urban and agricultural communities in California. They assessed the children for 23 different chemical compounds that reflect exposures to various types of pesticides used in homes and for agricultural purposes. They found that eating an organic diet was significantly associated with reduced concentrations of compounds formed when the body attempts to eliminate pesticides.

fruits veggies

So, why did they get these results? Well, the obvious first answer is that organic produce contains fewer pesticides, meaning that the body has less of a toxic burden in eliminating them, so there are fewer of the compounds formed when the body interacts with pesticides. These compounds are known as metabolites because they are byproducts of our body’s best efforts to metabolize these substances. But there are other reasons why the children who ate an organic diet would eliminate fewer pesticide residues in their urine: many toxic substances bind to fiber found in the diet, causing these toxins to be eliminated in the stool through bowel movements.

Additionally, the body uses nutrients in the process of metabolizing harmful substances. For example, sulfur compounds found in garlic and onions are used in a pathway in the liver known as sulfur conjugation, which is used to break down many chemicals in the blood before they can cause damage. And that’s just one of the body’s key pathways to address the toxic substances we encounter. There are many others such as amino acid conjugation, which requires the building blocks of proteins, known as amino acids, and more specifically taurine, glycine and glutamine.

Organic foods are rich in the nutrients that may help eliminate toxic pesticide residues to which we are all exposed through our food, air and water, thereby creating a possible second rationale for the results achieved by the scientists in this study.

Those are just two of the many reasons to eat organic food, not to mention it just tastes better. But, it’s great when great-tasting and nutritious food helps heal our bodies, too.

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Organic Food, Farms to be Celebrated Across Country During National Organic Week


TORONTO – National Organic Week is a chance for Canadians to learn more about how organic agriculture affects the environment.

The event, billed as the largest celebration of organic food, farming and products across the country, is set for Sept. 19-27. There will be farm and garden tours, workshops and tastings of organic food and drink. Local health food stores will be hosting activities.

Organic food is grown without pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics. To be labelled organic, domestic and imported items must meet all Canadian food regulations as well as additional organic standards and inspections, which also apply to handling.

Artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, preservatives and many other aids and ingredients in processed foods are also forbidden in organic foods.

“It’s not like a natural label where anything can be labelled natural,” says Michelle Book, a holistic nutritionist at the Canadian Health Food Association. “In order to have the Canadian organic logo, food is verified by a third party and is guaranteed to have an organic content of at least 95%or more.”

Canada is the fourth-largest market for organics in the world. The total number of farms in Canada has decreased by 17%  since 2001, but organic farms grew by 66.5%, according to the Canada Organic Trade Association. There are more than 3,700 organic farms across the country.


For those deciding whether to eat organic fruits and vegetables, Book points to two lists published by the U.S.-based Environmental Working Group – Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen Plus.

“The Clean 15 are fruits and vegetables that you may not necessarily need to buy organic and the Dirty Dozen are those that tend to be more heavily sprayed with pesticides and herbicides and where you do want to go organic,” says Book.

The Clean 15 includes foods such as pineapples, corn, onions and sweet potatoes, while the Dirty Dozen Plus includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches and spinach.

To minimize costs, Book suggests stocking up on items when they’re on sale and freezing them.

“Especially at this time of year when there’s such a bountiful harvest and all kinds of organic fresh fruits and vegetables, put them in the freezer so during the winter months when maybe they’re not as readily available and potentially a bit more costly you have them at hand.”

Clothing as well as personal care and cleaning products are also under the spotlight during National Organic Week, which is organized by the Canadian Health Food Association, Canadian Organic Growers and the Canadian Organic Trade Association.

To find out about events in your area, visit organicweek.ca.

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Eating Organic Produce Can Limit Pesticide Exposure

By Lindsey Konkel, Live Science Contributor | February 05, 2015

People who eat organic produce may have lower levels of some pesticides in their bodies than people who eat similar amounts of conventionally grown fruits and veggies, according to a new study.

The study is among the first to predict adult exposures to organophosphate pesticides based on people’s usual diets, the researchers said. Organophosphates are the pesticides commonly used on conventionally grown produce.

Scientists studied nearly 4,500 people from six cities in the United States, and collected dietary information, including the types and amounts of produce eaten in the past year and how often participants ate organic foods. The researchers estimated pesticide exposure by comparing typical intake of specific food items with average pesticide residue levels for those items.

To check their estimates, the scientists compared the calculated pesticide exposures to the levels of breakdown products from pesticides excreted in the urine of a subset of participants.

When matched on produce intake, people who reported eating organic fruits and veggies at least occasionally had significantly lower levels of pesticide residue in their urine than people who almost always ate conventionally grown produce.

Those who “often or always” ate organic fruits and vegetables averaged approximately 65 percent lower levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine than those who “rarely or never” ate organic.

Organophosphate pesticides degrade quickly in the body, so a urine test alone can only detect a person’s exposures in the past day or two. But “by combining with information on typical diet, we can begin to estimate a person’s long-term exposures,” said study author Cynthia Curl, an environmental health scientist at Boise State University in Idaho.

Still, the findings may not represent a person’s total exposure to pesticides. While organophosphates are the most commonly used insecticides on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, the researchers did not estimate exposure to other types of pesticides that could have been applied to the produce.

Compared to guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the results of this study “do not suggest unacceptable risk” from organophosphate pesticides, even for people with the highest exposure levels, the researchers wrote in the study.

However, current guidelines were devised in large part to protect farm workers from acute poisoning and may not adequately reflect the risks associated with lower levels of exposure to organophosphate pesticides or to mixtures of pesticides that may be part of the diet. “Researchers are just beginning to understand these risks,” Curl said.

Recent studies in mothers and children have suggested that prenatal organophosphate pesticide exposure may be associated with attention problems and developmental delays in children.

The new “research provides another piece of evidence that consumption of organic foods may reduce pesticide exposure,” said Jonathan Chevrier, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved with the study.

Some types of conventionally grown produce are lower in pesticides than others. For those interested in reducing exposure to pesticides, Curl suggested using the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list to see which fruits and vegetables tend to contain more pesticides. “This can help [people] pick and chose when to buy organic,” she said.

The findings were published online Feb. 5 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Health Benefits of Organic Food

Organic Food, Organic Food Basics

The health benefits of organic food are more based on perception than real facts. However, the sweeping public opinion that organic food is healthier than conventional food is quite strong, and is the main reason for about 30% of growth in the organic food industry over the past 5-6 years. Much of this inflated support of organic food as a healthier alternative comes from environmental groups who don’t want pesticides and fertilizers to do any more damage to the environment, so promoting organic foods, which don’t use those types of chemicals, seems like a good way to get the results they want. The producers of organic food are also very strong contributors to the idea that organic food is superior to other types.

First of all, there is a small amount of scientific evidence to show that organic food is better in quality than conventional food. Scientific research conducted thus far on various organic food items has not been able to give strong evidence about the superiority of organic food over non-organic food. As a result, even the FDA and the USDA clearly mention that non-organic food is as healthy as organic food. However, there are some scientific studies that have proved organic milk and organic tomatoes to be better than the non-organic varieties. Studies are also ongoing about a variety of other types of organic food that may have additional health benefits compared to the non-organic varieties.

Organic Milk

Recent research conducted on organic milk has shown that it has more antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and vitamins than non-organic milk. According to the researchers at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Research at the University of Aberdeen and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, organic milk is healthier than non-organic milk, since organic cows are pasture grazed which results in the better quality of milk.

Organic Tomatoes

According to a 10-year study conducted by the University of California, Davis, organic tomatoes are produced in an environment that has a lower nutrient supply since nitrogen-rich chemical fertilizers are not added. This leads to an excessive formation of antioxidants, such as quercetin (79% higher) and kaempferol (97% higher) in organic tomatoes. As we all know, antioxidants are good for health and help in reducing heart disease and the chances of developing cancer.

These studies have increased the hopes of numerous people who strongly believe that mankind should stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and shift to more sustainable organic farming practices. There are many studies that prove that there is some pesticide and fertilizer contamination in non-organic food, and there are others which claim that organic food is not healthy because they contain harmful bacteria and viruses because of not using strong chemicals to protect against these toxic substances. However, none of these studies that show chemical contamination or the presence of bacteria/viruses show any direct impact on the overall health of individuals.

Health Benefits of Organic Food

In general, organic food consumers, manufacturers, and farmers strongly believe that organic food has the following benefits compared to non-organic food. While there are plenty of arguments against the multitude of organic food being overpriced on the market, there is no denying that there are some benefits that can be enjoyed.

Antioxidant Capacity

A number of studies have been completed regarding the effects of antioxidants derived from organic foods on your overall health, and the predominant results have shown that antioxidants tend to have more of an impact when they come from organic foods. This may be due to the fact that foreign chemicals are not negatively interacting with the different vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that are so essential for the positive impact of fruits and vegetables in the prevention of things like cancer, heart disease, premature aging, vision problems, and cognitive malfunction. Recent research suggests that choosing organic food can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals.


Pesticide Reduction

One of the major complaints that organic food consumers cite when choosing organic over non-organic is the presence of pesticides. In order to keep crops from being attacked by the natural world, including bugs, pesticides are required. Although they do a good job keeping certain pests away from the crops, they also are composed of powerful chemicals like organophosphorus. This is an unnatural mineral compound that is not required by humans, but more than 80% of this material in our bodies comes from eating pesticide-coated foods. Organophosphorus has been connected to a number of developmental problems, including autism and ADHD, so those organic food lovers do have a pretty strong argument in this case. To be fair, many people do choose to go organic to make sure that their children grow up healthy and unaffected by the toxins of the world during their developmental years.

Heart Health

Increased amount of time grazing on grass also increases the amounts of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that can be found in the animal products. CLA is a heart-healthy fatty acid that can boost cardiovascular protection, and it is found in higher quantities in breast milk and in meat for animals that have been raised free range or cage-free.

Immune System

In recent decades, one of the biggest projects for farmers and food growers has been genetic modification. Making tomatoes six times larger might sound like a possible option for solving some world hunger issues, but there is another side to it. Genetic modification is still in its early stages, so the long-term effects of it on human health aren’t understood as well as we would like. In animal testing genetically modified food showed a major reduction in immune system strength, an increase in birth mortality, as well as in certain sexual dysfunctions, cancers, and sensitivity to allergens. Although there are some good things about genetically modified food, organic food advocates point to the lack of concrete details about the long-term effects.

Antibiotic Resistance

People are very sensitive to issues of their health, and they often take precautions to make sure they remain healthy, like getting various vaccines and taking antibiotics as soon as a new strain of bacteria makes them ill. However, non-organic food sources, particularly livestock and feed houses, also use antibiotics to feed their animals. This extra dose of antibiotics may actually be weakening our immune system by basically overdosing on antibiotics, thereby reshaping our immune system so many times that it will eventually be unable to defend itself. Organic food growers and dairy farmers do not use antibiotics in their processes.

Overall Health

Since organic food is not prepared using chemical fertilizers, it does not contain any traces of these strong chemicals and might not affect the human body in negative ways. Natural fertilizers, like manure, work perfectly fine, and organic farmers are happy to use this smellier, yet safer, form of fertilizer.

Better Taste

Some people strongly believe that organic food tastes better than non-organic food. The prominent reason for this belief is that it is produced using organic means of production. Furthermore, organic food is often sold locally, resulting in availability of fresh produce in the market, which usually does taste better than produce that has been frozen, shipped, and transported across long distances.

Environmental Safety

As harmful chemicals are not used in organic farming, there is minimal soil, air and water pollution; thus ensuring a safer and healthier world for future generations to live in.

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is an important aspect of producing organic milk, organic meat, organic poultry, and organic fish. People feel happy that the animals are not confined to a miserable caged life when they eat organic animal products.

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Study of Organic Crops Finds Fewer Pesticides and More Antioxidants

By KENNETH CHANG      JULY 11, 2014

Adding fuel to the debates over the merits of organic food, a comprehensive review of earlier studies found substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides in organic fruits, vegetables and grains compared with conventionally grown produce.

“It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” said Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England, who led the research. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.”

However, the full findings, to be published next week in the British Journal of Nutrition, stop short of claiming that eating organic produce will lead to better health.

“We are not making health claims based on this study, because we can’t,” Dr. Leifert said. The study, he said, is insufficient “to say organic food is definitely healthier for you, and it doesn’t tell you anything about how much of a health impact switching to organic food could have.”

Still, the authors note that other studies have suggested some of the antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases.

The conclusions in the new report run counter to those of a similar analysis published two years ago by Stanford scientists, who found few differences in the nutritional content of organic and conventionally grown foods. Those scientists said the small differences that did exist were unlikely to influence the health of the people who chose to buy organic foods, which are usually more expensive.

The Stanford study, like the new study, did find pesticide residues were several times higher on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, but played down the significance, because even the higher levels were largely below safety limits.

Organic farming, by and large, eliminates the use of conventional chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Those practices offer ecological benefits like healthier soils but produce less bountiful harvests. The Organic Trade Association, an industry organization, estimated organic food sales last year in the United States at $32.3 billion, or just over 4 percent of the total market.

What is disputed, vociferously, is whether organic fruits and vegetables provide a nutritional lift. Many naysayers regard organic as a marketing ploy to charge higher prices.

“The other argument would be, if you just eat a little bit more fruits and vegetables, you’re going to get more nutrients,” said Alan D. Dangour, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Dangour led a review published in 2009 that found no significant nutritional differences between conventional and organic foods.

Such differences are difficult to discern, because other factors that can vary widely from place to place and year to year, like the weather, also influence the nutrients. Even if differences exist, it is unclear whether they would affect consumer health.

In the new study, an international team of scientists did not conduct any laboratory or field work of their own. Instead, they compiled a database from 343 previously published studies and performed a statistical procedure known as a meta-analysis, which attempts to ferret robust bits of information from studies of varying designs and quality.

Some of the studies reported many measurements, some only a few. Some included several crops grown over multiple years, while others looked at only a few samples. But if done properly, the results of a meta-analysis can be greater than the average of its parts.

Over all, organic crops contained 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops, the new study found. For some classes of antioxidants, the difference was larger. A group of compounds known as flavanones, for example, were 69 percent higher in the organic produce. (At very high quantities, as in some supplements, some antioxidants have been shown to be harmful, but the levels in organic produce were not nearly that high.)

The researchers said they analyzed the data in several different ways, and each time the general results remained robust.

The study cost $429,000, which came from the European Union and the Sheepdrove Trust, a British charity that supports organic farming research. The scientists said the money came with no strings, and their research passed the rigor of scientific peer review for publication.

Charles M. Benbrook, a professor at Washington State University and another author of the paper, said this analysis improved on earlier reviews, in part because it incorporated recent new studies.

The findings fit with the expectation that without pesticides, plants would produce more antioxidants, many of which serve as defenses against pests and disease.

The study also found that organically produced foods, particularly grains, contain lower levels of cadmium, a toxic metal that sometimes contaminates conventional fertilizers. Dr. Benbrook said the researchers were surprised by that finding; there was no difference in other toxic metals like mercury and lead.

Even with the differences and the indications that some antioxidants are beneficial, nutrition experts said the “So what?” question had yet to be answered.

“After that, everything is speculative,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “It’s a really hard question to answer.”

Dr. Nestle said she buys organic foods, because she believes they are better for the environment and wants to avoid pesticides. “If they are also more nutritious, that’s a bonus,” she said. “How significant a bonus? Hard to say.”

She continued: “There is no reason to think that organic foods would be less nutritious than conventional industrial crops. Some studies in the past have found them to have more of some nutrients. Other studies have not. This one looked at more studies and has better statistics.”

Dr. Dangour, however, remained entirely unconvinced. He said the researchers erred in not excluding the weaker studies from the analysis. “To my mind, there’s no convincing evidence that these foods are different in nutritional composition,” he said.